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Full text of "A history of Persia"

LXXX        THE AWAKENING OF PERSIA        479
auspicious event when suddenly an assassin, taking
advantage of the Shah's kindly custom of receiving peti-
tions in person, fired at him and killed him. Thus died
Nasir-u-Din Shah, who was rightly regarded by his subjects
as the ablest man in his dominions. Splendidly virile
and of striking appearance, he conducted all important
affoirs in person. In 1894 I was accorded an interview
by His Majesty, who for nearly an hour asked me ques-
tion after question about my recent journey in Baluchistan.
He was much surprised to learn that there was a semi-
active volcano in this province, and was inclined to doubt
the accuracy of my statement until I assured him that I
had extracted sulphur and sal-ammoniac from the smok-
ing crater. He then said, " I have to thank you for this
piece of news, which adds to the greatness of Persia
and which proves once more that English officers give
me information of greater value than any of my own
officials."
In illustration of the Shah's humour the following
story may perhaps be of interest. His Majesty once
visited the famous Tak-i-Kisra, and while standing amid
the ruins of this Sasanian palace asked his courtiers
whether they deemed him or Noshirwan the juster
monarch. The astute Persians were at a complete loss,
as, if they said that their monarch exceeded Noshirwan
in the virtue for which his renown is world-wide, the
Shah might look upon them as flatterers, whereas a reply
in the opposite sense might be badly received. Conse-
quently they bowed obsequiously and kept silent. After
a long pause the musing Shah said : " I will myself reply
to my own question. I am more just than Noshirwan."
The courtiers, whose relief was intense, broke out into
loud exclamations of " May we be thy sacrifice !" The
Shah, whose mood was caustic, again spoke and said:
" You have applauded my statement without waiting for
my reasons, which is foolish. I will now give you my
reasons. Noshirwan had his famous Vizier, Buzurgmihr,
and whenever the monarch quitted the path of justice he
was brought back to it by his remonstrances, I have
-only you, who ever try to force me out of the straight